Millennial moviegoers may not recognize the name Rajiv Surendra, but they certainly know Kevin Gnapoor. Surendra starred as the hormonal Mathletes president (with a flair for rapping) in Tina Fey’s “Mean Girls,” becoming one of the film’s most quotable supporting characters. But what ever happened to Surendra in real life? GQ magazine recently caught up with him 19 years after “Mean Girls.” Surendra revealed that he tried to stick with acting post-“Mean Girls” by nabbing the lead role in Ang Lee’s “Life of Pi,” but it ended disastrously.
“While we were shooting ‘Mean Girls’ during my first year of college, I found out they were turning ‘The Life of Pi’ into a film. I was determined to get that part,” Surendra said. “So I dropped out of college to go to the little town in India where the book takes place so that I could do some in-depth research. I did that for a few months and came back and was just waiting for them to start production. I assumed that it was going to happen any day now and it didn’t. They lost their director and the project ended up getting put on hold so I went back to college.”
Surendra said going back to college was mostly a time-filler, as he intended to “drop out of school again” once the “Life of Pi” movie got back off the ground.
“The project kept getting delayed,” he said. “Three months turned into a year turned into four years. It was actually six years because of that year off. ‘Life of Pi’ was attached to four different directors over the years so every time a new director [came aboard], I’d go to the library and get out all the movies they had made and research that director. I worked really really hard to try to get this part. In the end, they gave it to somebody else.”
Ang Lee was ultimately hired to helm “Life of Pi” for 20th Century Fox. The director cast Suraj Sharma in the lead role.
“I felt like someone had died,” Surendra said about losing the part. “Very slowly over the course of six years, I was building this boy that was a character in a book. By the end of those years, that was a real person inside of me. Those old Tamil songs I listened to as a kid, Pi would’ve listened to those songs. When I got the email saying I didn’t get the part, I felt like that person just died instantly. It was traumatic. I think I was in shock for a couple weeks. I felt dead inside for a long time.”
“Life of Pi” turned into a box office hit with $609 million worldwide, and it garnered 11 Academy Award nominations, including best picture. Lee was awarded the Oscar for best director. Surendra, meanwhile, left acting behind for the most part. Read his full profile on GQ’s website.